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Don’t you just love iTunes not

For reasons mainly to do with a second interest after music/hi-fi, I’m often swapping computers and playing about. Nearly every application on this planet is easier to reinstall, without losing stuff, than iTunes.

I’ve just moved to the beta of Windows 7 because even in beta it’s more stable that Vista. To give it a fair chance I thought I should start with a clean install. Sorted everything out but bloody iTunes. Haven’t lost the apps for the iPhone but have lost all the music on the hard drive. Not the one I installed Win 7 on – I’m not that stupid yet, but a second drive used for miscellaneous data and iTunes.

Luckily the music is still on my iPhone but getting it back to my HD seems to be very difficult. I’ve done it before but that was when it seemed to be possible to tell the iPod it was a HD. Doesn’t seem possible with the iPhone.

I’m sure someone out there will tell me it’s easy. Hopefully.

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ASIO v K Mixer v Kernel Streaming

Computer audio seems to generate emotions when discussing what products to use that really are odd. Why do people get  so wound up?  I’d be interested in your comments. Ideally one would take a computer, connect a good DAC and play one’s favourite music using one’s favourite app.

If only it were that simple to get a great sound from CA.  The more I experiment the more I realise that CA is absolutely similar to analog audio or indeed any audio when taken seriously.  Every change is audible. Assuming one has a good enough system.

Of course, just because a change is audible doesn’t mean it matters.

The expression bandied about on forums about Computer Audio is bit transparent.  The theory is simple: it’s getting the bits from the Hard Drive out of the computer without them being manipulated/changed in any way.

I’ve tried many music playing apps and they all seem to sound subtly different.  Even different releases of iTunes are reported to sort different.  Life is far to short to bother to try different releases.  As they say, I tried it once and didn’t like it.

For convenience for quick playback I tend to use VLC www.videolan.org.  It seems to play almost everything audio and video and can even stream stuff over  my network.  It works well for Radio Paradise too.

If I want to get serious say when I’m comparing DACs I tend to use Foobar.  It’s not my favourite user experience but it is easily configurable. For use under Win XP it’s possible to use the ASIO add in to bypass the K Mixer (assuming you have a suitable sound card). I use the M-Audio Transit. For Vista the WASAPI add in also bypasses the Windows (Kernel Mixer aka K Mixer) mixer.  With volumes set at 100% one should be achieving bit transparency and the sound should be just that little bit cleaner, less splashy and the space between notes will be greater somehow.

CA still never gets truly close to good CD playback.  Not yet for me anyway.  And it’s not ’cause I haven’t tried hard.

It’s a bit simpler with a Mac (the classic Mac and a DAC route) assuming you remember to set the right bit depth and bit rate in the Midi settings but I can’t say it sounds any better.

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Times Online reports younger music fans deaf

The Times Online reported recently that younger music fans are beginning to prefer the sound of MP3s to better quality sound.

Article

Jonathan Berger, Professor of Music at Stanford University, California has theorised that young people are getting used to the sound of MP3s to the point where they are beginning to prefer the  sound. For the past eight years his students have taken part in an experiment in which they listen to songs in a variety of different forms, including MP3s. “I found not only that MP3s were not thought of as low quality, but over time there was a rise in preference for MP3s” Professor Berger said.

Professor Berger says that the (presumably lower bit rate) digitising process leaves music with a “sizzle” or a metallic sound.

Google let me down when I was searching for the original paper or quote from JB.  Just wonder if he actually said MP3 as most iPods are loaded with AACs?  However, does it matter? At 128kbs both sound pretty rough.

Seems us older music fans should play as  much vinyl as possible.

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Another DacMagic power supply trial

Decided to use Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, but slightly more unusually, the DVD-A rip so the source is 24/96. Unlike quite a few DVD-As, this one appears to have some content above 22k. Amazing though, that given the total available dynamic range they still needed to ‘clip’ the recording.  Still sounds rather good though.
To start I compared the standard power supply with the Maplin L54BR.  Pleasant surprise, the Maplin delivers a subtlety of delivery that doesn’t emphasise any particular instruments. The original PS, in comparison, seems to make the bass line and the hi-hat a little more obvious in the mix of Dreams and decreases the importance of Stevie Nick’s voice.

Using track 7 , The Chain, showed the original as having a slightly ‘sharper’ delivery, more detail perhaps but certainly less music. The main difference was in the low end but this changed the overall presentation. The Maplin just delivered more music but in a controlled and balanced manner.

I then dug out the 500VA transformer I’d tried before – now in an aluminium box and with a ferrite on the output – in common with the original Dacmagic’s supply.  This PS delivered more power to the presentation, more extension apparently  but was slightly slower. It had better separation of instruments, but not really more music.

The more comparisons of power supplies I do with the Dacmagic the more impressed I am of the overall balance of the design.

I will carry on using the Maplin PS.  It is easier to hide away, as it isn’t a walwart, and more importantly it improves the performance making it just that little more balanced and even handed.

The music playback system was a HP2133 netbook running Foobar and ASIO drivers connected by USB2 to a M-Audio Transit sound card which was connected with a  Chord Optichord to the Cambridge.

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Wolfgang’s Vault

This site should truly sort the music lover from the hi-fi lover.  Register for free on www.wolfgangsvault.com and listen to a choice of a huge amount of live recordings of great bands from years ago.  So far I’ve listened to Elton John, Black Sabbath, Little Feat and  Grateful Dead.  There’s enough music to keep me listening for weeks.

Sound quality is generally rather good.  Good in a bandwidth limited, obviously live but solid sort of way, but one recording did sound as if it was made of a fluttery cassette.

I played it back from my HP2133 into a M-Audio Transit into my Behringer SRC2496 upsampling to 24/88 all feeding my Naim system.  Maybe a bit OTT but well worth the effort.

Thanks to John Atkinson, editor of Stereophile mag for bring this superb resource to my attention

Highly recommended

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Back to first principles – system setup

I’ve owned a Naim system for somewehere around 15 years and have learnt a lot about set up mainly over the past five or so handling Naim’s PR. Jason, Naim’s Southern Area manager has taught me that there is no such thing as too much attention to detail.
Yesterday I learnt that, the problem in one’s own system is that, it’s easy to forget the basics.
Normally I don’t change my main system as I have another in a differnt room to evaluate products and to run things in.
After HDX was launched I decided to put it into my main system along with a PS555 – the PS555 coming along later.
What I forgot was, that in my haste to get the PS555 into the system, I put it onto the only spare Fraim level which was directly under the HDX and next to the NAC 552.
Yesterday, I decided to move the PS555 to a newly created spare level around 40cm lower. Unbelievable: the upper bass thickness that I had been trying to sort for a couple of months went away, the system opened up and became a real joy to listen to. But the change wasn’t just on playing from HDX it was on vinyl, FM and CD.

To quote quite a few forums posts that I have read over the years I have been playing all sorts of music and it’s like it’s all new stuff.  What an amazing change for so little work.

So now all I have to do is find the time to take the whole system apart, tighten up all the Fraim bolts, redo all the Mains wiring so that I can try Power-Line, give it all the clean and reassemble in perhaops a slightly different order.  After the High End show in Munich perhaps.  More then.

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Why 45rpm is essential

Elbow’s award winning album The Seldom Seen Kid is available on vinyl.  It’s heavy, split onto two records, and is 45rpm.  None of the reviews I read on Amazon mention that it’s 45rpm and neither does the album sleeve or even the Amazon details page.

Don’t get caught out like me wondering why the beginning sounded so odd.  Luckily my Funked LP12 with its DC motor and clever power supply can be switched to 45.

The album is truly stunning.  It has been mastered with care, it’s not compressed to hell, and its quiet.  What’s really wonderful though is the music.  It’s true poetry set to to music.  Maybe it’s not the most uplifting album in the world but it’s definitely the best album I’ve bought in the last couple of years.

Worth playing very often and very loud.

The Thorens 25th anniversary triple album is in the same class, but I didn’t have to buy that one, I’m glad to say.  More on that another day.

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Hot Tuna Hi-res audio download

This could be the start of an expensive time.

Having found and downloaded FestivaLink presents Hot Tuna at MerleFest 4/28/06 and Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss both in 24/96 from www.hdtracks.com I started to look around for more Hot Tuna live material. I found www.hottunatunes.com. While the downloads on hotunatunes are only available as mp3 or CD res Flacs there are hundreds to choose from. This could get very expensive.

The Hot Tuna hi-res download Hot Tuna at Merlefest is hi-res of sorts. Looking at its frequency content it looks suspiciously like an upsampled 44.1 or at best 48k DAT recording. Sounds rather good though. My first download from the HT site doesn’t sound as good but the music is just wonderful.  Jefferson Airplane was (is) one of my favourite bands and HT may be currently running close behind.  These guys may not be the springiest of chickens but they can sure play.  My first paid for download also came with a free older gig recording in 128MP3.  Sounds rather inadequate in comparison but totally worth a listen they are obviously on a roll that night.

The hi-res Raising Sand is quite different from the CD rip.  It definitely sounds as if it has a higher bandwidth: it sounds smoother, more detailed and just more classy but it doesn’t have the punch or the impact of the lower res CD rip.